Title: ALL TOGETHER (Et si on vivait tous ensemble?)
Kino Lorber/ Tribeca Film
Director: Stéphane Robelin
Screenwriter: Stéphane Robelin
Cast: Jane Fonda, Pierre Richard, Claude Rich, Geraldine Chaplin, Guy Bedos, Daniel Brühl, Gwendoline Hamon, Bernard Malaka
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 10/4/14
Opens: October 19, 2012
How do people want to live when they get on in years, particularly if they are not able to care for themselves? Some will insist on remaining in their own homes despite the dangers they may face if nobody is around during moments of crisis. Others will move in with their children, not the favored solution in America but more likely in Europe. Some well-heeled folks will go to fancy retirement communities with gourmet meals and golf courses. But no-one wants to be in the typical old-age home or even an assisted living facility, which would mean giving up what is familiar and being with people who may be in worse shape than they are.
This last option is brought out in one scene of Stéphane Robelin’s sentimental comedy, depicting a number of people in wheelchairs almost comatose look at some banal program on TV. The ideal solution, or at least what we can determine from this film, is to keep your own living quarters while sharing meals and good times with friends you’ve known for decades. The compromise that seems to work despite one nasty crimp in proceedings is for the good friends to move in with one another in a single house, sharing their retirement with people they know well and with whom they can get along, making decisions by democratic vote.
“All Together” focuses on five such people mostly in their seventies who do this, though only some have disabilities that make them unable to live independently. Albert (Pierre Richard), for example, is on the cusp of dementia. Claude (Claude Rich) has had a heart attack but is as interested in sex as always, though he needs Viagra and patronizes hookers. Jeanne (Jane Fonda) seems OK, looks fantastic, but has a serious illness and does not expect to live out the year. Annie (Geraldine Chaplin) has no particular infirmities but she extends the use of her large house, which she inherited, to her friends. And Jean (Guy Bedos) is vigorous enough, takes part in leftist demonstrations, and is likewise physically able but appears to enjoy the idea of living around the clock with his pals. They hire Dirk (Daniel Brühl), a German anthropology student, to walk Albert’s large dog, but Dirk remains in the house full time to pursue a dissertation on the lives of older people in Europe (seems like too broad a topic, but it’s a movie).
With a French title that means “and if we all lived together?” Robelin’s film is conventional, which could be a benefit in that it could open in regular theaters, though it will likely attract only an older clientele. (At the screening I attended, the only twenty-something woman in the audience bolted as soon as the title came up: she was in the wrong room.)
While this could be made into an American movie with, say, Olympia Dukakis, “All Together” already features a link that could bring a stateside clientele to the theaters. Jane Fonda, looking thirty years younger than her 75 years, takes on the group’s most vivacious role, speaking a solid French to her pals, opening up particularly to young Dirk about her sexual fantasies and activities. Not so Geraldine Chaplin, now 68 in real life, whose character is more staid now but, as the story will bring out later has had some youthful experiences that could shatter the commune.
In one of the movie’s “in” gags, the group are voting whether to govern themselves along collectivist lines or by libertarian standards: Jane Fonda in her role as Jeanne votes against her real-live interests in pushing for the latter. Though young Dirk is impressed by witnessing first-hand at close range the activities of people decades older, learning that they still have hopes and dreams like folks his own age, one could conclude sadly that, as Katherine Hepburn once said in her declining years, that the myth of growing wisdom notwithstanding, old age has not a single redeeming feature.
Unrated. 96 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B